1 John 2:1-6: "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did."
This passage talks about Christ as our advocate. What does this mean? According to Black’s Law Dictionary, an advocate is “one who assists, defends, or pleads for another; one who renders legal advice and aid and pleads the cause of another before a court. A person learned in the law, and duly admitted to practice, who assists his client with advice, and pleads for him in open court.” The Greek definition of this word John uses is "called to one's aid - of Christ in His exaltation at God's right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins."
So the picture is of Christ advocating on our behalf before the Father, who is judging our guilt and innocence as we stand before the gates of Heaven. So, why do we need an advocate? Why can we not just plead our own case before the judge? Let me provide you with a real-world example.
There is a landmark court case in the United States, Gideon V. Wainwright. This case took place before the Supreme Court in 1963. A homeless drifter named Clarence Gideon was convicted in Florida in 1961 of stealing from a pool hall. He did not have enough money to hire an attorney – an advocate – and so represented himself. He was convicted and sentenced to spend five years in prison, the maximum sentence for the crime. However, while in prison, Gideon wrote a letter to the Supreme Court, asking them to retry his case because his constitutional right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment had been violated, as well as the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court accepted and granted him a court-appointed lawyer – an advocate. This time, on March 18, 1963, the court ruled unanimously in Gideon’s favor. He was then granted a retrial, when his attorney – his advocate – W. Fred Turner, won the case and Gideon was acquitted of all crimes.
What was the difference in Gideon representing himself and having a qualified advocate represent him? Most importantly, Gideon was found guilty and sentenced when he represented himself and he was acquitted and released when he had an advocate. What provided the difference in guilt and innocence, in being sentenced and being acquitted? It had everything to do with the qualifications and knowledge of the advocate. When Gideon acted as his own advocate, he was not qualified or knowledgeable enough to plead his own case. As a result, he was found guilty and sentenced. However, when he had an advocate who was both qualified and knowledgeable to act on his behalf, Gideon was found innocent and was acquitted. The entire case hinged upon the qualifications of the advocate.
In this case, Christ acts as our advocate before the Father, the Judge. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that it is appointed once that man dies, and then he faces judgment. We all have an appointment with the judge – with God the Father. This word “judgment” in the Greek literally means “a trial” or “a decision given concerning right or wrong”. So, when we die and we face the Father – the Judge – there will quite literally be a trial concerning right and wrong, and a decision will be handed down of whether we are guilty or innocent of upholding the holy standard worthy of entering heaven. And since Romans 3:10 and Romans 3:23 are universal truths – that there is none righteous and that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard – we will all be found guilty of “unholiness” in our trial before the Father. We will be unable to enter eternal dwelling with God the Father.
However, there lies some good news in here. We have an advocate that is qualified to act on our behalf. He is the exalted one. Philippians 2:9 says that God has exalted Jesus Christ to the highest place and has given Him the name above every other name, and that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Is he qualified? I would say so! He has been exalted by God the Father to the highest place.
He sits at the right hand of the Father. What does this mean? This means that he sits upon the throne of Heaven, ruling with the Father. Romans 8:34 says that Christ who died and, more than that, was raised to life and is at the right hand of God – interceding for us! What a beautiful picture! Jesus Christ overcame death, hell, and the grave to intercede for us – to act as our advocate before the Father. All this so that, when our trial does come, he is qualified to act as our advocate before the Father. His sinless life was the sacrifice that you could not make to open the doors of Heaven to you.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.